Scams abound as tax filing deadline looms

Scams abound as tax filing deadline looms
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tax time is stressful and many senior citizens are sitting ducks for scammers, experts say.

The newest scam: Fake calls claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service are flooding phone lines.

"Hello, we have been trying to reach you. This call is officially and final notice from IRS. IRS is filing a lawsuit against you," a robotic voice announces. The robocall urges the recipient to call a number.

Scott Spallina supervises the Office of the Prosecutor's Elder Abuse Unit, and says criminals want your personal information.

"What do you need to file your taxes? Your date of birth, your Social Security number, your address. You need a telephone number," he said. " All this is precious material to the scam artist."

They'll steal your identity to get your refund by filing a bogus tax return in your name.

The Federal Trade Commission got about 6,200 complaints of identity theft in Hawaii last year, with the average loss at more than $2,500.

AARP Hawaii State Director Barbara Kim Stanton said you can bet many of the crimes involved seniors victimized by bogus IRS scams like the one that offers seniors "free" or "low cost" tax prep.

"Believe it or not a lot of the fraudulent claims happen with people who are bogus tax preparers," she said.

Spallina said seniors who are duped are hesitant to report it because they're embarrassed. "You don't want to tell your family members. You don't want to tell the police that I got snookered into giving money to a stranger," he said.

If you don't recognize a number let the call go to voicemail. You'll automatically be taken off the Robocall list.  If you do answer, don't engage the caller.

"As soon as you pick up the phone and someone says they're from the IRS, hang up immediately," Spallina said.

Remember the IRS won't call you, and don't be fooled by what you see on caller ID. Scammers computers can fool your phone into thinking it's a local call.

For more help and information, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 or the AARP Fraud Network at 1(877) 908-3360. And to further safeguard your personal information AARP will offer free document shredding on Saturday, April 30. Call (808) 545-6007 for locations and times.

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